Use counterfactuals. How would the problem look after an alternate history. For analytical problems, remove some preceding thing. For expansive problems, add some preceding thing.
Try to re-conceptualize the problem. Try shifting the focus or priorities of the problem or its underlying assumptions. Think of a different, but closely related problem; work on that for a while instead.
By default people try to solve problems by building on known solutions. Instead, pursue the path of most resistance.
Think about the problem (or some element of the problem) in terms of its opposite. Or, try to think of two things as opposites which are not naturally thought of in that way. (Remember Janus, the Roman god of portals.)
Write down the problem. Replace the verbs with more general verbs. Reconsider.
What is the type/category/classification of the problem? Try understanding it as a different class of problem.
Get into an absurdist frame of mind. Read some Borges or Barthelme. Replace one aspect of the problem with something absurd, or reframe the entire problem.
Imagine your project a year in the future. Five years in the future. One hundred years in the future.
Imagine your task at a distance. Think about it from far away; how would it look from China?
Don't focus one one problem, try to solve two problems at the same time.
© Paul Gorman